Sunday, March 19, 2006

I don't need your civil war

George Will makes the point that should be obvious to everyone, but appears to have gone unnoticed by the person who matters most, our illustrious leader in the Oval Office: Iraq already is bogged down in civil war.

I've never subscribed to the George W. Bush-is-dumb theory, but I don't believe he is an astute student of history, so it's worth noting, as Will does, that few civil wars resemble the one America fought:

But civil wars do not usually begin with an identifiable event, such as the firing on Fort Sumter, or proceed to massed, uniformed forces clashing in battles like Shiloh. Iraq's civil war -- which looks more like Spain's in the 1930s -- began months ago.

In Spain, the security forces were united and in three years were victorious. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. John Abizaid, U.S. commander in the Middle East, recently said Iraqi forces would cope with a civil war "to the extent they're able to" (Rumsfeld) and "they'll handle it with our help" (Abizaid). Their problematic assumption is that Iraq's security forces have a national loyalty and will not fracture along the fissures of Iraq's sectarian society.

Will, a Burkean conservative, says it's time to bury Bush's belief--indeed, the bedrock of his foreign policy--that democracy can be exported through force of arms and made to flourish immediately in a place where it has not previously been known:

Conditions in Iraq have worsened in the 94 days that have passed since Iraq's elections in December. And there still is no Iraqi government that can govern. By many measures conditions are worse than they were a year ago, when they were worse than they had been the year before.

Three years ago the administration had a theory: Democratic institutions do not just spring from a hospitable culture, they can also create such a culture. That theory has been a casualty of the war that began three years ago today.

Of course, supporters of the war--and some opponents as well--insist that such criticisms are counterproductive. We are in Iraq whether we like it or not, and what's important is to devise a strategy for restoring order to the country. But there is more to be gained in dwelling on the mistakes that brought us to this point than merely scoring political points. We can hope that our future leaders will have more respect for history than our currents ones, and heed its lessons wisely.


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